Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Schumer’s Agenda Includes Infrastructure Investment

Washington, D.C.—Even as the House was moving to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the incoming Senate majority leader, laid out a “bold” agenda that includes infrastructure investment.

Schumer told his fellow Democrats in a letter their work will not be delayed by the impeachment drama.

Schumer’s call for action on infrastructure tracks with President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign agenda that included transforming the nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.

Ports and inland waterways were specifically included in that vision along with roads, bridges, aviation and rail, the transportation closely identified with “Amtrak Joe.”

Biden’s transportation plan also includes a major emphasis on cleaner energy that might complicate efforts to win bipartisan support. Still, if successful, Biden’s effort could end the infrastructure issue’s time as the punchline it became during the Trump era.

In his agenda, Schumer also included additional coronavirus relief for Americans, businesses and local and state governments, the defeat of climate change, tax reform and criminal justice issues.

He stressed that COVID emergency aid, including increasing direct payments to individuals to $2,000, would be the Senate’s “first order of legislative business.”

Nationwide Permits

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the publication in the Federal Register of the 2021 Nationwide Permits (NWPs) along with a rule that takes effect March 15.

The 12 reissued NWPs replace the 2017 versions, and all activities authorized by the remaining 40 NWPs from 2017 remain authorized until their March 18, 2022, expiration date.

Four new 2021 NWPs also were included in the rule.

“Our goals in updating, developing and authorizing these 16 nationwide permits are to enhance regulatory efficiency and provide clarity for the regulated public without decreasing environmental protection,” said Maj. Gen. William “Butch” Graham, Corps deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations.

“Our nationwide permits are an important tool in encouraging project proponents to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands, streams and other aquatic resources.”

The new NWPs are necessary for work in streams, wetlands and other waters of the United States under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.

USMMA Superintendent Promoted

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao promoted U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Superintendent Jack Buono to vice admiral in the U.S. Maritime Service (USMS) at a ceremony in the Department of Transportation headquarters, Washington, D.C. prior to her resignation from the post earlier this month.

“Vice Admiral Buono deserves this third star,” Chao said.

“He’s been a great leader, especially during COVID-19, and has put USMMA at Kings Point on a solid foundation to develop our country’s future maritime leaders.”

Buono’s promotion makes the 1978 USMMA graduate the first to serve in his position at his new rank.

According to the announcement, Buono will continue to lead USMMA, where he has been stationed since November 2018.

“This well-deserved promotion is an indication of the trust and confidence we have in Vice Adm. Buono’s leadership in the critical role of preparing our nation’s next generation of leaders, afloat and ashore,” Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby said.

Buono said he was “humbled and honored by this promotion.”

“I look forward to continuing to develop the future of this national treasure we call USMMA,” he said.

MMC Policy Letter

The Coast Guard announced the availability of a policy letter providing guidance on the issuance of Merchant Mariner Credential endorsements.

Issued January 4, CG–MMC Policy Letter 01–21 is in accordance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended (STCW Convention) for service on vessels subject to the International Code of Safety for Ships Using Gases or Low Flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code).

The Coast Guard said it will issue STCW endorsements for Basic and Advanced IGF Code Operations to mariners who have voluntarily fulfilled the STCW requirements and request the endorsement.

The policy letter is available on the National Maritime Center’s website.

For additional information, contact James Cavo at 202-372-1205 or the Mariner Credentialing Program Policy Division at MMCPolicy@uscg.mil or 202-372-2357.

MTS Advisory Committee

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) is requesting nominations for membership on the U.S. Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC) to seek solutions to impediments to short sea transportation and provide recommendations to the secretary of transportation.

Limited to electronic submissions because of COVID-19, applications must be received by 5 p.m. EST February 8.

Applications received after that deadline may be used to fill vacancies that may arise in the next two years.

For additional information, contact Amanda Rutherford at 202-595-4657.

MERPAC Applications

The Coast Guard again is soliciting applications for membership on the National Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee (MERPAC) to represent the viewpoint of those credentialed with ratings as a qualified member of the engine department.

MERPAC advises the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on matters relating to personnel in the United States merchant marine, including the training and fitness of mariners.

Applications should reach the Coast Guard by March 15 with a cover letter expressing interest in an appointment and a resume detailing applicant’s experience, submitted to Megan.C.Johns@uscg.mil. Subject Line: N–MERPAC (preferred).

Applicants who hold a Merchant Mariner Credential with an officer endorsement are not eligible for this position. Applicants who responded to previous notices do not need to reapply.

For additional information, contact Megan Johns Henry at 202-372-1255.

Napolitano Honor

U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) has been selected to receive the prestigious Gold Order of the de Fleury award by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Rep. Napolitano has been a staunch supporter of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, the Corps’ 55th chief of engineers and commanding general.

“Most recently she made securing funding for the Whittier Narrows Dam one of her top priorities.”

First elected to Congress in 1998, Napolitano serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Natural Resources committees.

Spellmon also noted the veteran congresswoman’s understanding of the importance of dam safety work and water supply operations and her years of advocacy for infrastructure of national significance.

Established in 1779 in honor of Francois Louis Tesseidre de Fleury, a French engineer who volunteered to serve during the American Revolution, the award has four levels—steel, bronze, silver and gold—with gold being the most prestigious.

Retired Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Spellmon’s predecessor, had selected Napolitano for the award, which was scheduled to be presented in July but was delayed due to COVID-19 until July 2021.

According to the Corps, the chief of engineers selects one gold award recipient from inside the Engineer Regiment and one outside the regiment each year.

National Security Vessel

The Maritime Administration (MarAd) marked a new era in maritime education with the cutting of steel for a new National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV), reaching the initial major construction milestone for the first purpose-built, state-of-the-art training vessel for state maritime academies.

In addition to providing “world-class training” for future mariners, MarAd said, the NSMV will be available to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

MarAd Administrator Mark Buzby said his agency has been working for more than a decade to make the NSMV a reality for America’s state maritime academy cadets, who deserve state-of-the-art training ships.